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The welfare of garment workers has garnered well-deserved attention after a series of horrific catastrophes, including the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April that killed more than 1,100 people in Bangladesh. Since then, more than 70 global retailers have signed the legally binding Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord.
Patagonia is attacking the issue of worker welfare differently. The Ventura, Calif.-based clothing company with a track record in supporting environmental causes just announced plans to start selling nine styles of Fair Trade Certified apparel during the 2014 fall season, with more to follow in the spring of 2015.
These products will be made by Pratibha, a vertical operation in India, using organic cotton farms, fabric mills and a sewing factory, according to Cara Chacon, Patagonia's director of social and environmental responsibility. For every Fair Trade Certified product sold, Patagonia will pay a premium - somewhere between one and ten percent of the item's factory price - into a special bank account controlled by Pratibha workers who decide democratically how to use the funds.
Patagonia is partnering with Fair Trade USA, which audits and certifies transactions between companies and their international suppliers to make sure workers are paid fairly and work in safe conditions.
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